New exhibition makes the children deaf heard

Life and Deaf image for exhibition publicity ©Life&DeafAssociation

Life and Deaf image for exhibition publicity
©Life&DeafAssociation

Greenwich cultural life has always been well-known for being active and diverse. From the 3rd-31st January 2013, locals can enjoy a special exhibition in the Mulberry Tea Rooms – located in the central foyer of Charlton House.

Charlton House is the finest and best preserved Jacobean mansion in London, set amongst the attractive Charlton Park. It is not open to the general public, but the Mulberry Tea Rooms can be visited Monday to Friday from 9am to 3pm.

The exhibition will display an outstanding selection of poetry and photography courtesy of the Life & Deaf Association. This voluntary charitable organisation is based in Humber Rd, Blackheath, and aims to improve the lives of young deaf people.

According to the leading resource for deafness and sign language, www.deafsign.com, there are between 23,000 and 25,000 children (aged 0-15 years) who are permanently deaf or hard of hearing in the UK. From that, about 16,000 were born deaf or became so in the first few years of their life. This terrible situation can be compounded by the environment the children grow up in. Katie Martin is a Greenwich Community Health Services (GCHS) worker and one of the Life & Deaf directors: “More than 95% of deaf children are born to hearing parents …Many signing children learn to sign late or grow up in families where sign language is not used fluently. This mismatch in communication means that some deaf children do not achieve their potential for language and literacy”. However, deaf children still have the same cognitive abilities and potential for language learning as children who hear. Katie elaborates: “Some children are oral, some use British Sign Language and some use a combination of speech and sign”.

Life and Deaf was set up in 2006 by speech therapists, Jane Thomas and Katie Ford, and teacher of the death, Helena Ballard. It was created as a local speech and language therapy project in Greenwich to develop the communication skills, confidence and self-esteem of deaf young people. Through poetry expressed in English and British Sign Language, the clients explored their identities, feelings and observations. Soon L&D were holding their first event. “It was shared with the public through performances, an interactive exhibition and a beautiful book and DVD,” the organisation’s directors elaborate. “We have continued to find that through poetry, the children are able to express both positive and negative thoughts and feelings about life and deafness.” The success of the project led to L&D being awarded the 2006 ‘Children and Young Peoples’ Service Team of the Year’ award.

Life and Deaf image for exhibition publicity ©Life&DeafAssociation

Life and Deaf image for exhibition publicity
©Life&DeafAssociation

The DISC Youth Club works along Life & Deaf along with many other organisations as the University of Greenwich. Sharon and Barry Goacher took over the running of DISC when the two original founders, Miriam Long and Lynn Robertson, found they no longer had the time. Three of the Goachers’ own four children are deaf. Sharon tells us her take on their venture partner: “Life & Deaf is a very positive organisation which encourages young people to express their frustrations and emotions in a very positive way”. Speaking of the exhibited poems, she seems affected and touched: “Even I, as a parent with three deaf children, did not always get just how hard and at times hurtful being deaf is…”. Terry, their first deaf child, was already having speech therapy with Katie and Jane when he got involved in the first L&D project. Sharon remembers it well: “He wrote a small poem and went to a photo shoot. He felt passionate about what he wrote – it felt good…”. This was such a healthy experience that the Goachers took their other deaf children, Kayleigh and Alex, to the second project in 2011. They both wrote short pieces and had a similarly enjoyable time.

The Royal Borough of Greenwich is another L&D partner, and thanks to them the organisation was able to take its second project to a more expansive and developed level. In May and July 2011, young deaf poets from across London and the UK came together for two days of workshops led by deaf and hearing professionals. Penelope Beschizza, a teacher of the deaf and lecturer of BSL and Deaf studies attended with a group of her students. She believes the benefits in some of her deaf students who participated are plain to see long after the event. “The ripple effects are evident through seeing the gradual unlocking of their deaf identity and creative cognitive skills…” She is certain this transfers to the people around them: “The ripple effect quietly benefits families, friends, and the students’ learning too”.

On 29th March 2012, the Purcell Room of the Southbank Centre screened the short film, ‘That’s Not all of Me’. The film was made with extracts from over 50 poems from the second L&D project, woven together to make one extended narrative, accompanied by a professionally shot visual performance piece. Directed by Evelyn Lee, ‘That’s Not all of Me’ was shortlisted by Southbank from over 800 international short films, and has since been shown in the IndigO2 and the Barbican. It has also won the Ritter Sport award at the Zebra international poetry film festival.

In July 2013, the Life & Deaf Association will carry out a UK tour in a branded camper van, reaching large audiences across England, Scotland and Wales with funding from the Arts Council and Royal Borough of Greenwich. The next project entitled ‘Include me in the world’ “will be about inclusion within families, schools and local communities”, as directors say. At each stop, there will be screenings of the short film ‘That’s not all of me’ alongside live poetry performances and deaf guarenes quiz. “There will be deafness-related freebees and the chance to learn some signs through interactive games and a live video blog”, Katie, Helena and Jane diz Close.

Looking back to L&D exhibitions, some of the themes explored include hearing aids and cochlear implants, school, and living around friends and family who can hear. Between April and July 2012, another L&D poetry and photography exhibition took place in the Greenwich Picturehouse Cinema. It was subsequently moved to the Discover Greenwich Visitor Centre at the Old Royal Naval College.

Life and Deaf image for exhibition publicity
©Life&DeafAssociation

The reception of participants and the attending carers, friends and families has been very promising in general. “It’s an amazing project!” said one attendee. “It shows people who are not deaf how it feels to be so. I’m glad that I was lucky to see this exhibition!” Another declared: “Absolutely brilliant exhibition – a great insight as a hearing person into the world of a deaf person. It should remain here all the time”. One of the young deaf participants wrote: “I am glad that Katie, Helena and Jane set up Life & Deaf because it has given me the chance to say what I want to say and to be with other people who feel exactly how I feel. I love going to Life & Deaf and I wish it will carry on in the future”.

This happy customer will not be disappointed, as the organisation will continue in its work and in putting on feel-good events. This latest exhibition in the Mulberry Tea Rooms is not to be missed, whether you have hearing difficulties or not. It presents powerful viewpoints from a part of society which is often overlooked, yet is as rich and full as wit and passion as any other. On top of that it is supporting the work of a well-valued and hard working charity. It’s the perfect mentally stimulating accompaniment to a hot beverage, and has pride of place in a significant historical setting.

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Un pensamiento en “New exhibition makes the children deaf heard

  1. plytki ceramiczne 08/07/2013 en 4:33 PM Reply

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